New York Jets: Three overreactions from Week 1

zach wilson, jets

The New York Jets’ 2021 opener in Carolina brought familiar pessimism, but the green sky isn’t falling just yet.

In the aftermath of the NFL’s most recent opening weekend, Canton’s sculptors are designing Jameis Winston’s bust while fans in Philadelphia and Cincinnati might be researching flights and hotels in Southern California for the second weekend in February.

Of course, Week 1 should never be used as an exclusive barometer for how an NFL season is going to pan out: in last year’s edition, the Jacksonville Jaguars, future bearers of a 1-15 ledger looked like a sleeper team after earning an upset win over Indianapolis. Tom Brady’s career was declared over for the umpteenth time after a loss to his new divisional rivals in New Orleans.

The New York Jets are used to kickoff weekend calamities as losers of five of their last six openers. Alas for New York, they’ve failed to defy the curse of Week 1, as each of the last six efforts has ended with a losing record. The theory that Gang Green has to pay some sort of “Jets tax”, where their simplest mistakes are held against them as comedy, also hasn’t helped.

Needless to say, the Jets’ 19-14 defeat at the hands of Sam Darnold, Robby Anderson, and the Carolina Panthers has only exacerbated the feelings of gridiron dread. ESM channels its inner Third Eye Blind and asks Jets fans to step back off that ledge…the season doesn’t end with Week 1.

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The Overreaction: Zach Wilson is a bust!!!

Why Cooler Heads Should Prevail: Overreactions manifest most prevalently when it comes to quarterbacks. Nothing draws clicks and views better than a debate over the passer’s spot on the depth chart. Gridrion schadenfreude is perhaps best manifested through the struggles of rookie quarterbacks. Casual and professional observers alike are quick to pounce on any mistake.

Enough has been written about the Jets’ blocking woes on Sunday. Those passers built for the NFL game know how to adapt to uncomfortable situations and Wilson struggled to do so in the first half (6-of-16, 84 yards, and an interception) as the Jets fell behind a 16-point margin. The amateur critics on social media were quick to attack, ready to place Wilson in the same halls as fellow first-round washouts Richard Todd, Mark Sanchez, and Sunday’s opponent Sam Darnold.

But Wilson’s recovery and ability to dodge the defenders allowed through (especially after a stagnant preseason in the pocket) was inspiring to watch. Those traits were best on display through Wilson’s pair of scoring passes to Corey Davis, ones that drew the Jets close in a game that had little business lingering in.

His adaptation and recovery in the latter half-hour 14-of-21, 174 yards, two scores, 123.9 passer rating) drew praise from notable names both domestically and abroad.

“I loved his resilience in the second half,” former NFL quarterback and ESPN analyst Trent Dilfer said, per Darryl Slater of NJ.com. “I thought he played terribly in the first half. And then the pieces I saw in the second half, I was really impressed. I’m like: Wow, that takes a lot of resilience for a rookie — to go in at halftime, getting your butt kicked in your first start, and come back out and really settle down and play with structure and timing and make some plays. I was impressed.”

“We want tough guys and dudes who have no quit,” Davis, Wilson’s new favorite target, said in a report from Al Iannazzone of Newsday. “That’s what he exemplifies. He’s going to be great here. I’m excited to have him. We’re going to do great things.”

No one can deny that Wilson endured a roller-coaster debut. But it shouldn’t be defined by its opened half.

The Overreaction: Denzel Mims has to go!!!

Why Cooler Heads Should Prevail: The Jets continue to deal with the curious cause of Mims. He has gone from second-round consolation prize after passing on aerial talents to draft Mekhi Becton and their best potential homegrown deep-ball threat since Santana Moss to the constant source of speculation.

It took only a single 40-yard reception, one that set up the Jets’ final score of the day, for Mims to become the Jets’ third-leading receiver in Charlotte. But Mims partook in only three snaps, stuck behind journeyman Braxton Berrios and former Boston College quarterback Jeff Smith. Blunt comments from head coach Robert Saleh have only raised further red flags, as did the fact that Mims only saw three snaps on an afternoon where the Jets were already missing veterans Keelan Cole and Jamison Crowder.

“He’s been doing a good job getting himself a little bit better every day but, he’s got to know, when you’re not one of the main guys, you got to know all three spots and you’ve got to know it at a high level so you can step in and take advantage of all those opportunities,” Saleh said this week, per notes from the Jets. “So, if the Z, the F, or the X needs a break, you’re the first one that goes in because you know all three spots, you can execute at a high level and you can roll.”

The Jets have invested a lot into Mims: Jeremy Chinn and Antonio Gibson were chosen within the immediate ten picks after him. If Cole and Crowder return for Sunday’s home opener against New England (1 p.m. ET, CBS), there’s a chance that Mims could land on the inactive list.

But there’s something to be said about Saleh’s willingness to hold someone who’s projected to be a major part of the offensive revolution accountable. This isn’t to say that Saleh and his staff are infallible…honeymoons end fairly quickly for metropolitan football head coaches…but it’s an early statement, an early gambit that can light a fire under Mims and set him on a good path for the rest of his career.

Mims’ situation should be watched for the rest of the season, but there’s no use in panicking after opening weekend. It’s worth seeing how Saleh’s gambit pays off. Saleh isn’t the only head coach on the staff who has a big opportunity granted to him by the Mims situation: offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur can leave an instant impact on a unit that has struggled for literal years by finding a spot for an embattled big-play threat.

george fant, jets

The Overreaction: The Offensive Line is Going to Make Things Difficult All Year!!!

Why Cooler Heads Should Prevail: Hey, at least “Let’s Find Mehki Becton’s Replacement!!!” hasn’t gained too much traction yet.

Holding Becton’s injury history against him is a mistake…it’s still early in his career and football is a violent game…but there’s no denying his medically induced absence leaves the Jets in a prickly situation. This is a chance for general manager Joe Douglas’ constant tinkering and remodeling of the offensive wall to make their benefactor proud.

At the forefront is the arrival of Morgan Moses, who was added during the doldrums of July. Moses was one of the most impact post-minicamp signings across the league and perfectly fits into what the Jets were trying to accomplish this offseason: he fulfills a dire need (Douglas continues to make up for the blocking negligence of the Mike Maccagnan era) and has the big-game experience the fledgling Jets sought after helping the Washington Football Team capture the NFC East.

Getting the work in this offseason allows the Jets to welcome in an experienced, talented name, rather than scooping a name off the practice squad or the wasteland that is in-season free agency.

Moses will take over at right tackle while George Fant assumes Becton’s role as the left anchor. Fant struggled on Sunday but he believes that working with Moses is going to help him out. Their relationship dates back to offseason workouts and could pay big dividends as the Jets

“I learned a lot from him. It was not one of those competitions where we were not speaking to each other,” Fant said in a report from team writer Randy Lange. “We were coaching each other up (saying) I like this guy, I like this guys’ family. We’ve been close for a while. That was the cool part.”

Time…namely the next four weeks that Becton will undoubtedly miss…how that previously established relationship plays to the Jets’ benefit. But it’s something that should give them at least a little bit of confidence as they move forward into a landscape rife with uncertainty.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Jets: The importance and symbolism of the right tackle battle

As the New York Jets continue to seek clarity on the offensive line, an intriguing battle for snaps has emerged between two veterans.

Addressing the offensive line is the football equivalent of having a salad: no one wants to do it.

Everyone would rather have a tasty cheeseburger with a side of fries, downing it with a cold beverage…i.e. add a flashy skill player, one whose antics can become a staple in the pregame hype videos played on stadium videoboards. But, at the end of the day, the consumer knows deep down that adding a blocker or keeping up on their fruits and vegetables will lead to its long-term survival and prosperity.

The New York Jets indulged themselves for far too long. Prior to taking Mekhi Becton with the 11th overall choice of the 2020 draft…passing on several elite receiving talents…they had gone nearly a decade without choosing an offensive lineman within the first 64 picks (dating back to second-round tackle Vlad Ducasse in 2010). While the first round was mostly dedicated to defensive washouts (Kyle Wilson, Quinton Coples, Dee Milliner, Darron Lee), some of their second round choices saw them miss out on future NFL protection staples. Cody Whitehair went to Chicago seven picks pick after the infamous Christian Hackenberg selection in 2016. Aerial busts Stephen Hill and Devin Smith were respectively chosen ahead of Kelechi Osemele and Rob Havenstein.

The Joe Douglas era has seen the general manager attempt to atone for that negligence. Even if his moves haven’t fully panned out (i.e. convincing Ryan Kalil out of retirement, trading for Alex Lewis), the mere action was refreshing from a New York standpoint. Becton’s breakout, a rare silver lining of the woebegone 2020 campaign, was perhaps the first example of Douglas’ blocking blueprint yielding visible, on-field results.

“You guys know how I feel about the offensive line: it’s hard to have a good team without one,” Douglas said of the line during the 2020 Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, per Ralph Vacchiano of SNY. Few would know of the importance of winning a good trench battle better than Douglas, a two-time all-state blocker at Lee-Davis (now Mechanicsville) High School in Virginia before embarking on a lengthy college career at Richmond.

At the time of those comments, the Jets were looking to protect Sam Darnold as he entered his third year as the team’s franchise quarterback. Now, they’re fortifying their wall as the professional debut of last spring’s second overall pick Zach Wilson looms. Bolstering the line could also help awaken a run game that hasn’t finished in the NFL’s upper half since 2016.

The Jets continued their renovations on the blindside when they traded up with Minnesota to take guard Alijah Vera-Tucker out of USC with the 14th choice. Vera-Tucker has dealt with a pectoral issue that will keep him out of Saturday’s preseason opener against the New York Giants (7:30 p.m. ET, WNBC), but should be ready for the Jets’ visit to Green Bay next week.

In the meantime, the right side of the unit faces an intriguing battle, one that has only intensified with the release of the Jets’ first depth chart earlier this week. While the opening positions are mostly solidified, one top slot stood out: not one, but two names resided in the right tackle’s role: George Fant and Morgan Moses.

It’s a battle of depth, a war of experience, one that serves as a strong monument to Douglas’ goals in the trenches.

Some assumed that Moses would automatically gain primary right tackle duties when he joined the as a late signing in July. The third-round pick from the 2014 draft (chosen 17 picks after the Jets took star-crossed tight end Jace Amaro out of Texas Tech) had established himself as one of the more reliable outside blockers during a seven-year career in Washington. He is a blocker who has stayed healthy, someone who had made himself a staple (he had been in the team’s starting lineup in each of the last 96 games) on a playoff team (Washington ended a four-year playoff drought with an NFC East division title last season). Such consistency, at least that of a veteran variety, hadn’t been seen in New York since D’Brickashaw Ferguson and Nick Mangold saw their final snaps.

Yet, he wasn’t going into Florham Park assuming anything and that feeling hasn’t subsided as game day approaches. In fact, he welcomes and has appreciated the ongoing battle between him and Fant.

“Competition is everything for me,” Moses said this week, per Dennis Waszak of the Associated Press. “Nothing is given. Everything that I’ve worked for in this league since I’ve been in the league, I’ve earned. And that’s how I want it to be. I feel like if things are given to you, we take it lightly. I’m here to get myself better and try to make this team and make the offensive line better.”

Training camp has served as a solid reintroduction for Fant, who was part of Douglas’ blocking splurge during the 2020 offseason. The group endured an up-and-down endeavor as a whole but Fant showed he had lasting power in New York. His teammates voted him an offensive captain and appeared on 829 snaps with the group.

The Jets could’ve saved about $7 million if Fant was released this offseason, but they kept him aboard even with Moses in tow. His self-confidence was apparent in a reflection of the 2020 season published by team reporter Ethan Greenberg.

“I proved to myself and I feel like I proved to everybody else that I deserve to be in the league, (that I) deserve to be a starter in this league, and that I could play at a high level consistently,” Fant said in Greenberg’s report. “There are more things I want to work on, but I feel like that’s the number one thing. I needed that for myself, the confidence in myself and hopefully put that confidence in the team as well.”

In team notes, head coach Robert Saleh said that starters would play “a quarter, couple series” in Saturday’s metropolitan showdown. Right tackle reps will likely be split between Moses and Fant. Saleh said after Thursday’s practice that their matchup, equally sprinkled with intensity and professionalism, has been one of the most enjoyable parts of his first metropolitan training camp.

“It’s competitive, they’re two professionals,” Saleh said in further notes from the Jets. “I’m actually enjoying the fact that those two talk all the time about technique and they’re helping one another out, I think it’s pretty cool. They exemplify professionalism and it’s been fun to watch.”

The competitive respect between Fant and Moses has up with Saleh’s theme of respect, one that shockingly drew ire and annoyance on Fox Sports’ Speak For YourselfThe blockers’ battle has served as a perfect counterargument to the idea that the Jets have “no fire”, as analyst and former NFL defensive lineman Marcellus Wiley declared.

Instead, the two are making each other better for not only Saturday’s exhibition opener, but for a crucial 2021 season as a whole. Fant, signed one for one more season after 2021 while Moses is on a one-year deal, knows that the competition can also make him a better blocker for the future. If it makes him better immediately, the Jets’ new era of offense, headlined by youngsters like Wilson, Elijah Moore, and Michael Carter, can get off to a strong start, one full of confidence for the road ahead.

“It’s a great opportunity to add depth to the team,” Fant said at the onset of training camp, per video provided by the Jets. “He’s a really good player, a great veteran to add to our room…That’s what this game’s all about. That’s what the NFL’s all about: you’re competing at all times.”

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

Three reasons why the New York Jets can make the playoffs

new york jets, zach wilson

It won’t be easy…but it can happen. ESM has three ways the New York Jets can pull off the unthinkable in 2021.

The world was a different place the last time the New York Jets partook in an NFL playoff game. It was a freezing January evening in Pittsburgh, as the Jets fell one step short of their Super Bowl dream for the second consecutive season in the AFC championship contest.

At that time, MetLife Stadium didn’t exist…well, the building itself was there, but it was free of corporate sponsorship under the identity of New Meadowlands Stadium. A basketball team called the Nets was no longer stationed at the arena next door…then known as Izod Center…but they still played under a Garden State branding. At the cinema, the Marvel Cinematic Universe was a mere three movies old and the idea of expanding the Star Wars galaxy was merely fanfiction.

In short…it’s been a while. The Jets’ playoff drought now stands at a decade, a record inherited when the Cleveland Browns clinched a spot last season. What’s scarier is that the second-most dire active drought has made to only five years, a dubious distinction shared by Arizona, Cincinnati, and Denver.

Conventional wisdom suggests that the trend isn’t ending any time soon. The Jets are trapped in a division where one reign of terror in New England gave way to another in Buffalo. Their conference’s wild card landscape isn’t any more forgiving, as established contenders pepper the other divisions. Even their own rivals in the East, Miami and New England, will be back with a vengeance. Combine that with a first-year head coach and franchise quarterback working with a mostly new cast and it’s difficult to see the Jets make major headway in the win/loss columns. Many observers agree that the Jets got better this offseason…but it comes with the caveat that the 2020 season was so brutal that there was nowhere to go but up.

But…ESM is going to look at things a little more optimistically. We have three ways the Jets’ improvements can lead to a long-awaited postseason revisit:

New York Giants, Corey Davis
Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Not Sorry, Wilson

This time last year, the Jets were going into the 2020 season with an offensive cabinet that left much to be desired. Year three of the Sam Darnold era was expected to rely upon a first-round washout (Breshad Perriman), a Le’Veon Bell who was constantly denying that he was arguing with Adam Gase, and an assortment of veteran reserves in the skill positions. A rare silver lining of hope, Denzel Mims, missed almost all of the summer preparation with hamstring issues. Darnold was also working with his third different center in three NFL seasons. Needless to say, the Jets’ offense played a major role in their two-win downfall and Darnold posted the worst numbers of his career.

Granted the second overall pick in April for their troubles over the fall, the Jets opted to start from scratch (again). Before they used that premier pick on one of the touted quarterbacks of the draft…later revealed to be BYU’s Zach Wilson…management did all they could to retroactively atone for the mistakes of the Darnold era. What they’ve assembled for Wilson is, at least on paper, is better than anything Darnold had to work with.

Corey Davis, coming off a career-best year in Tennessee, is the projected top target. Free agency endeavors also brought in Keelan Cole, who tallied 2,242 yards over the last four seasons despite endless quarterback turnover in Jacksonville. They’ll welcome back Mims and reliable slot target Jamison Crowder and when Elijah Moore fell to their grasp with the second pick in the second round at the draft, they immediately pounced. At running back, they found a potential day three draft gem in Michael Carter and signed Tevin Coleman a two-time Super Bowl participant with something to prove, to a one-year deal. Though questions linger at tight end, vis a vis Chris Herndon, they did add red zone option Tyler Kroft to the fold as well.

Wilson will also be able to take in the benefits of a revamped offensive line. Mekhi Becton was well worth the risk of passing on several elite receiving talents last season. He’s now joined by USC protector Alijah Vera-Tucker, who indirectly comes from a pick used in the infamous Jamal Adams trade (a pick acquired from Seattle was traded to Minnesota to move up the board). New York enjoyed a late-offseason surprise in the form of the consistent tackle Morgan Moses, who is expected to take over on the right side.

The depths to which the Jets sank on offense last season (only six games over 300 yards, nine games with 14 points or less) should be impossible to reach at the NFL level. But those called upon are reliable names with championship panache. If the newcomers rise to their potential, the Jets could reopen the scoring floodgates and repopulate East Rutherford’s end zones.

Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Pressure Treated

Perhaps no intermission interview during a hockey broadcast is complete without the phrase “pucks on net” being uttered, to the point it’s become a bit of a meme. The football equivalent could be “pressure the quarterback”.

The NFL is undoubtedly a league ruled by offense, evidenced by its inflated scoreboards. But, every so often, we’re reminded that defense wins championships. MetLife Stadium’s turf knows about the concept better than anyone, playing host to the Seattle Seahawks’ 43-8 dismantling of the historically explosive Denver Broncos offense in Super Bowl XLVIII. Even the might Patrick Mahomes isn’t immune to the dangers of a strong pass rush. The Kansas City Chiefs are 44-10 (including postseason) with Mahomes as their starter; half of those losses (a 7-5 mark overall) have come when he’s sacked at least three times. One of those losses came against Todd Bowles’ relentless rush in last year’s Big Game.

The Jets’ downfall has only been exacerbated by a lack of pressure. They’ve applied pressure on only 21.4 percent of opposing dropbacks over the past two seasons, ranking 25th in the league in the category last season…a bit perplexing for a unit overseen by Gregg Williams. When you’re trapped in a division that bestows you two guaranteed matchups with Josh Allen for the foreseeable future, having a fearsome pass rush will be vital.

New York plans to start from scratch again with head coach Robert Saleh and defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich in tow. The team is set to run a 4-3 base for the first time since the Herm Edwards/Donnie Henderson days. They spent the offseason bolstering the front seven in an effort to prepare for the transition.

For better or worse, the Jets’ most impactful free agency signing for not only the coming season but for the next few years could likely become Carl Lawson. The narrative behind Lawson is that his on-field influence goes far beyond the number in his sack column (no more than 5.5 after 8.0 in his debut campaign out of Auburn in 2017) and he has the less conventional numbers to prove it.

Though the Jets recently announced some their defensive breakouts won’t be available for the start of training camp, it’ll be interesting to see what Quinnen Williams, Foley Fatukasi, and John Franklin-Myers can do for an encore with a little extra help. The transformation in the front seven further continued with the arrival of Jarrad Davis, whose finest gridiron hours have come in 4-3 sets with the Florida Gators and Detroit Lions. While Davis has struggled to live up to his first round billing since Teryl Austin and Jim Caldwell were dismissed from Detroit, he has kept his pressure numbers consistent. A return to a familiar 4-3 setting could help him up the ante not only as a backfield invader but as a a leader as well. Championship contenders Sheldon Rankins and Vinny Curry have likewise joined the fold.

Questions, of course, still linger in the secondary. For example, Marcus Maye and Ashtyn Davis (the latter recovering from surgery) are respectively on the Non-Football Injury and Physically Unable to Perform lists, further depleting a safeties group desperate for answers. But the Jets are going to make life a heck of a lot easier for themselves if they can make quarterbacks feel uncomfortable again.

Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Meet the New Boss

Say what you will about the Todd Bowles era: its final chapters were penned in poignancy, as players were disappointed not for themselves, but that they let a strong football mind and a man of great character down. They sang of Bowles’ praises to the very end and many were upset to see him let go after the 2018 season.

Those warm feelings didn’t seem to translate to the ousting of Bowles’ successor. When the woebegone Gase was let go after two disastrous seasons, there was an aura of “good riddance”. The players’ relative silence on the matter spoke volumes, though fans were more than happy to chime in.

The hiring of Saleh, most recently the overseer of the lauded San Francisco 49ers’ defense, comes at an interesting time on the pro football timeline. It’s a move made as the league values offense, posting scoreboards that flirt with those from the defunct Arena Football League. One would also foresee an offensive mind coming in with a new franchise quarterback to mold and develop.

Yet, the players’ response to what Saleh is advertising could slowly signal the return of good vibes to Gang Green football.

Saleh had a tall task to deal with upon his arrival: convince outsiders and prospects that a two-win team that the internet turned into a football meme bank had something to work with, something that hinted at a championship climb. What he did was immediately get to work, adopt a catchy yet inspirational mantra that quickly caught on to players and fans alike, and slowly got momentum back on the green side of the New York football bridge.

What Saleh (along with general manager Joe Douglas) did this offseason was from a free agent unit of not exactly what the Jets were looking for, but finding parts that they needed. Lawson brings pressure, Davis brings knowledge of the 4-3. Saleh mostly avoided stocking up on former Bay Area pupils but the major holdover (running back Tevin Coleman) brings knowledge of offensive boss Mike LaFleur’s system and what it takes to compete for a championship. Wilson’s offensive cabinet is stocked with no true No. 1 receiver, but a series of skill players eager to proves themselves…which could well describe the state of the Jets as a whole in this point in time. Financials likely played a large role, but Saleh’s plan was apparently able to convince Jamison Crowder (by far the most consistent offensive weapon over the last two seasons) to stick around for at least one more season.

Saleh himself has admitted on several occasions that his New York restructure and tenets  are going to take some time to fully install. Votes for Coach of the Year might be more realistic at this point…after all, it won’t take much to improve upon the horrors of 2020. But faith in the right coach is capable of doing some incredible things.

Do you think the New York Jets can overcome the odds and end their postseason drought? If so, how can they do it? Follow @GeoffJMags on Twitter and continue the conversation.

New York Jets 2021 offseason recap: Offensive line

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The continued renovations to the offensive line got off to a slow start, but the New York Jets recovered with a big gain on draft day.

Following the conclusion of minicamp activities, the NFL offseason is officially over. The next time the New York Jets convene in Florham Park, they’ll be getting ready for preseason and regular season action for the 2021 campaign. 

With the offseason in the rearview mirror, ESM looks back on the green offseason that was, position-by-position. This next segment centers on the revamped blocking program…

New York Jets, Mekhi Becton
Credit: Joe McManus

How It Started

By this point, everyone knows that Jets general manager Joe Douglas is at least trying to make things right on the offensive line after the negligence of the Mike Maccagnan era. That plan was rather obvious last offseason when the Jets spent a majority of their offseason capital on blocking help.

New York missed out on top names like Jack Conklin and Joe Thuney but dispensed over $34 million guaranteed to George Fant, Connor McGovern, and Greg Van Roten. With their first-round pick, the Jets passed on premier receiving talents to draft Louisville tackle Mekhi Becton instead. It marked the first time the Jets used their opening pick on a blocker since the iconic D’Brickashaw Ferguson/Nick Mangold pairing in 2006.

When the Jets took the field for Week 1 action in Buffalo, it was completely different from the five that opened the prior campaign at the Meadowlands in 2019. But despite Douglas’ financial enthusiasm, the splurge did not have the intended effect. The Jets’ line ranked 29th in Pro Football Focus’ final unit grades, marred by inconsistency. Advanced stats dictated the Jets averaged only 2.5 seconds before allowing pressure and quarterback Sam Darnold was dropped on 8.3 percent of his dropbacks, the third-worst rate in the league (behind Carson Wentz and Daniel Jones).

The Jets did enjoy a huge silver lining in the form of Becton, who lived up to his first-round billing and then some, offering the Jets serenity in passing on names big box score names like Justin Jefferson, CeeDee Lamb, Henry Ruggs, and Jerry Jeudy.

morgan moses, new york jets

How It’s Going

Gifted with a cap space surplus, many expected the Jets to hit the ground running. But New York got off to another slow start on the free agency front, watching their top targets and revered blocking names like Thuney and Corey Linsley sign elsewhere.

This time around, the Jets instead opted to spend the early portions upgrading their box score weaponry through receiving and rushing help. Depth-based consolation prizes awaited in Dan Feeney and Corey Levin from the Los Angeles Chargers and the New England practice squad respectively. Levin hasn’t appeared in a regular season game since 2019 while Feeney was an average blocker whose profile was amplified through a lively, larger-than-life personality that quickly won over Jets and Islanders fans alike.

Douglas and the Jets changed the narrative on draft night, boldly sending away draft picks (one of which was obtained in Jamal Adams’ Seattle deal) up north to Minnesota to draft USC blocker Alijah Vera-Tucker. Known primarily as a Trojan guard, Vera-Tucker spent the shortened 2020 season as a tackle, showcasing his versatility. It was a costly endeavor…the Jets had no Friday picks beyond Elijah Moore at 34th overall…but Douglas’ dedication to this renovation can’t be denied. Vera-Tucker is expected to take over the primary left guard role previously occupied by Alex Lewis, who struggled last season in starting duties but is nonetheless back as a depth option.

The Jets enjoyed an extra boost to the line in the late stages of the offseason, negotiating a one-year deal for Morgan Moses, formerly of the Washington Football Team, shortly after minicamp. Moses has been one of the most effective blockers in the league and is coming off a career-best campaign. He brings the championship feeling desired by the Jets in other acquisitions, having played a strong role in Washington’s run to the division title last season. His reliability, having started every game since 2015, made him an attractive late gem as well.

Along for the ride is newly minted offensive line coach John Benton, who will also serve as the run game coordinator. Benton reprises the former role he held for four seasons alongside Robert Saleh and Mike LaFleur in San Francisco.

Jan 3, 2021; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; The New England Patriots and the New York Jets at the line of scrimmage for the snap during the first half at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

Are They Better Off?

Maybe Jets fans have been so desperate for any semblance of doing the right thing. But Douglas’ dedication to the unit from the minute he took office has been refreshing. The struggles of last year’s haul did nothing to deter his quest to build a wall in front of his new passing and rushing units.

Douglas faced a bit of an uphill battle in luring free agents to New York. Even though players both domestically and abroad were hyped by Robert Saleh’s hiring, asking marquee free agents to join up with a two-win squad was going to be a bit difficult. It was tough, though, for the Jets to watch Thuney sign a long-term deal in Kansas City without much of a fight.

Having said that, Douglas put his draft money where his mouth was in the latter stages of the offseason, trading some of his valuable draft capital to find a mid-first round gem. At the literal last minute, he was able to convince the serviceable Moses to sign up for the year.

The gestures are great. But no it’s about the success translating on the field.

Douglas’ appreciated offensive line makeover began when he traded a late pick to Baltimore for Lewis and convinced Carolina Pro Bowler Matt Kalil to come out of retirement. It was great to see him take initiative…but now it’s time for results. Getting that desired effect may have been a bit easier if Douglas was able to add an elite name.

Final Offseason Grade: B-

How important will a revamped offensive line be to the Jets’ success? Continue the conversation on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Jets: 3 aftershocks from the Morgan Moses signing

morgan moses, new york jets

The New York Jets had a late offseason surprise going into the weekend. How does it affect the team moving forward? ESM investigates.

With Independence Day weekend looming, the New York Jets had early fireworks to share.

Per a Friday report from Rich Cimini of ESPN, the Jets are set to sign Morgan Moses to a one-year deal. Moses, formerly of the Washington Football Team, was released due to salary cap reasons after seven seasons in the nation’s capital.

“Morgan is a fantastic player. He’s played at a very high level,” head coach Robert Saleh said recently, per Cimini. “We’re not going to shy away from adding good football players.”

What does it mean? ESM investigates…

Another Brick in the Wall

General manager Joe Douglas continues to make up for the offensive line negligence of the Mike Maccagnan era. While Douglas has earned rave reviews for the relative risk of picking Mekhi Becton at 11th overall and his willingness to use offseason capital on blocking, his veteran acquisitions haven’t exactly panned out. It’s great, for example, that he was able to convince Ryan Kalil to come out of retirement during his first weeks in office, but at some point, these moves have to start paying on-field dividends rather than ones of morale. Douglas has identified the problem. Now he needs the solution.

The 30-year-old Moses only boosts the Jets’ offensive potential as they continue to construct the wall in front of Zach Wilson and his young running backs. This veteran blocking signing, or at least the timing of it, has a different aura to it.

Unlike the aging Kalil or last year’s relatively unproven class developed out of necessity (George Fant, Connor McGovern, Greg Van Roten), Moses appears to still be working through his prime and is someone who serves as an automatic life of the blocking party. There are no Pro Bowl or All-Pro nominations to his name just yet, but Moses’ Pro Football Focus grade (80.6, including an 85.9 in rush protection) was sixth-best amongst right tackles.

Moses has also had little issue staying healthy (having started in every Washington game since 2015) and fulfills the championship feeling trait that the Jets have worked on this offseason (Corey Davis, Tevin Coleman, Sheldon Rankins). To that end, Moses was part of Washington’s unexpected division title effort.

George Fant Becomes a Depth Star

Fant was one of the more prominent arrivals of the Jets’ 2020 free agent class. But he figures to be the odd man out with a player of Moses’ caliber set to join the lineup.

At first glance, Fant could become a late cap casualty or draft capital fodder. The Jets, for example, would save $7.8 million if they trade the former Seattle Seahawk. But if the versatile Fant is a backup right tackle, the Jets are in a relatively decent spot. With experience in several blocking roles, Fant can serviceably step in in case of an emergency. If anyone knows about the value of having a deep squad, it’s Douglas, one of the architects behind the Philadelphia Eagles’ improbable Super Bowl run back in 2017 (which makes the lack of an experienced backup for Wilson all the more puzzling, but that’s another conversation).

Though Fant got off to a slow start, he gradually improved throughout the season. Fant likely endeared himself to new Jets management by expressing his anticipation of working in new coordinator Mike LaFleur’s system toward the end of minicamp proceedings. He’s particularly impressed by LaFleur’s tendencies to focus on outside-zone or wide formations.

“This system is really built for me,” Fant said in a report from team writer Ethan Greenberg. “This is the most excited I’ve been going into a season so far. Being in Seattle for all those years, we kind of ran something similar. But seeing the 49ers and how they were running a wide zone when I was in Seattle, I already kind of had an idea of what they were going to do. Very excited to work with them, get in this system and really show what I’m capable of.”

A Master and An Apprentice(s)

Once again, Douglas’ line renovations deserve some praise in the early going. Becton appears to a legitimate lasting force on the line while Douglas boldly traded up with Minnesota to take Alijah Vera-Tucker, sacrificing any day two capital beyond the second pick of the second round.

But, much like the incoming quarterback, it shouldn’t be fully on the shoulders of Becton and Vera-Tucker to completely clean up the Jets’ blocking woes, especially at such a young age. Having a veteran option like Moses in tow should provide some relief and give them a strong mentor to learn from. When Trent Williams left Washington for San Francisco, Moses became the elder statesman in burgundy blocking. Under Moses’ watch, Washington’s line finished sixth in the final PFF rankings, up from 29th in the preseason edition. Moses was even said to take Washington’s then-franchise quarterback Dwayne Haskins under his wing before the team moved on to eternal placeholder Ryan Fitzpatrick.

Between his experience, talent, and championship knowledge, Moses arrives at a perfect time from a Jets standpoint. Sure, his green makeover probably doesn’t turn the Jets into playoff contenders, but he’s something a Jets team desperately trying to end a perpetual rebuild desperately needed The hard part…fulfilling the potential brought about by this addition and proving Douglas correct…starts in training camp.

How much an impact will Moses have on the 2021 Jets? Continue the conversation on Twitter @GeoffJMags

Report: Jets ink OT Morgan Moses to one-year deal, add more competition to OL

morgan moses, new york jets

The New York Jets have been contemplating the idea of signing former Washington offensive tackle Morgan Moses to a one-year contract. Well, on Friday, they finalized the deal to bring Moses to New York, having started 97 games in his career for Washington.

The Jets, who have Mekhi Becton, George Fant, and rookie Alijah Vera-Tucker capable of playing offensive tackle, now have added competition from a solid veteran.

In 2020, Moses played the majority of his snaps at right tackle, featuring at left tackle in Weeks 11 and 12. He’s capable of playing on both sides but was far better in pass blocking when featuring on the right side of the OL. He allowed five total sacks, 14 QB hits, and 22 hurries.

Overall, Moses has been a consistent option for Washington for the past seven seasons. At 6’6″ and 335 pounds, rookie quarterback Zach Wilson now has himself a consistent OT on the right side who can provide support due to injury and will likely push Fant for the starting job.

Moses is coming off a five-year, $38.5 million deal, so the Jets signing him to a one-year contract should land in the $5-8 million range for the 2021 campaign. Fortunately, Moses hasn’t missed a game in six seasons, showcasing his reliability, and was mainly cut due to financial reasons and not performance-based factors.

Jets, Morgan Moses nearing potential multi-year deal

morgan moses, new york jets

The New York Jets have made strides in upgrading their offensive line for rookie quarterback Zach Wilson, and another may be on the way. According to ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler, the Jets are considered the favorites to land free agent OT Morgan Moses and are making progress on a potential multi-year deal.

The addition of the former Washington lineman would be a massive one upfront. The seventh-year player has started every game since 2015 and would add sustainability and security to the line.

Moses is the best available offensive tackle, by far, and would take over the other tackle spot opposite the young star, Mekhi Becton. He has experience on both sides of the line, but is more suited for the right tackle spot. That works perfectly, as Becton is comfortable on the left.

Coming off a season in which he ranked 18th among tackles with a Pro Football Focus grade of 79.9, Moses would be a gem to add this late in the offseason. So, the seemingly aggressive push to sign him makes sense.

A deal has not yet been agreed upon or confirmed, but it appears as though the Jets will land the free agent. If a deal is finalized in the coming hours or days, the Jets’ offensive line will have taken a major step forward.